Monday, 3 September 2012

Seven Years War with Maurice - Part two, laying in the guns.

Keen to get started on my Seven Years War Old Glory Russians, I chose to start with the figures I dread the most, the artillery.  Why dread?  Well, they come in lots of fiddly little pieces, all of which are flash-heavy, require a lot of cleaning and a lot of putting together.  I understand the need for multi-part casting from the practicalities of the moulding process, but I still hate having to glue these fiddly bits and bobs together.

The Old Glory artillery pieces were particularly heavy with flash that needed cleaning off, but once done, unlike many such models they fit together very well and before too long I had the guns and crew prepared, glued to their painting sticks  and undercoated. (and the cannons on the Pendraken bases).

Now then, there's a well established debate among wargamers concerning the undercoating of figures.  This traditional debate centres around the colour choice of the undercoat; white or black.  Personally I've never got on with white undercoats and every time I've tried to use it I've disliked the resulting finish.  So for me its usually the black undercoat.  However, of late I've taken to using a brown undercoat with a matt spray available from a well known car supply company.  i find the brown gives a more satisfyingly natural undertone to the colours, and whereas black, if used as recess low-lighting, gives a harsh relief, the brown looks more appropriate.   

Onto the painting itself.  Firstly some context.  I'm not painting figures to win awards here.  These are gaming pieces that are going to see a lot of hard use on the tabletop.  They need to look good at arm's length, not up close so I don't put too much effort into neatness of individual figures.  'Good enough' is my usual aim.  I actually have a bit of a reputation for being able to churn out figures at a fast pace, and this is probably why.  Over the years I've developed a simple technique to achieve decent playable results for my armies.  So as we go, you'll see what looks up close to be pretty rough painting.  It is, intentionally so.  Don't panic!

OK, so I start with the flesh.  The colour is roughly slapped on, in a fairly thick 'wash' (3:1 paint:water).

Pretty scruffy eh?  I always did go over the lines on my colouring books as a kid, mostly deliberately.  Carrying on, I roughly layer on the remaining colours; firstly the red coat, then the lighter details and finally the black areas to produce this dodgy looking fellow.

That's pretty terrible eh?  In 28mm I'd be looking to repaint at this stage.  But this is 15mm and at arm's length this chap looks pretty good!  OK, so onto the next stage, and its the part where the magic happens - the tone wash.  I use a dark brown ink wash, diluted to various degrees depending on the model.  In this case, it was roughly 50:50 ink-wash:water.  Slap it on liberally all over and it produces this.

This tone wash does a couple of remarkable things.  Firstly, it covers over all those rough, badly painted edges between the various different colours.  It provides 'deep' colour, filling the creases, deep recesses and other areas, making the figure 'pop out'.  Applying it over all the colours also covers the whole model in a 'tone' that gives a cohesive appearance. 

So i'm nearly done and the next stage after the tone wash is to sort out the detail.  this is the first stage that I'll switch to a detail brush and try and take a bit of care over where the paint goes.  Again, I'm going for speed here as much as precision, so its a matter of 'good enough at arm's length.  Layering the base colours on again, careful to highlight the 'high' areas of the model (nose, cheeks, shoulders, elbows, and any other prominent bits that poke out and are highly visible) fairly neatly should bring the little fellow into line nicely and end up looking something like this.

OK, the picture's a bit blurry but you should get the idea.  This chap is now ready to fall in on his base alongside his compatriots like this fine fellow.

Using this technique and with the figures arrayed on a painting stick, I was able to get through the 24 crew and guns in about an hour of painting (not including paint drying time, which added about half an hour).  

The cannons themselves were prepared in a similar manner.

A base colour is liberally washed onto the guns
The detail colours are added in 

A dark brown ink-wash tone is splashed all over the model

Finally the base colours are reapplied fairly carefully.  I wanted the cannons to be bronze looking and so added in several extra washes of brown ink and sepia ink over the barrel, and then drybrushed it with a 'gunmetal' colour.

All that remained was to assemble and base the models to bring it all together.

'And he levelled up his cannons, 
his victory to gain...'

Now then, for years I've struggled to find a decent way of basing my figures.  And after much trial, error, and bases i've been dissatisfied with I've settled on what you see here.  

It's a four-part process, although as I like speed and I'm basically impatient to get things finished I do it all in once sequence.

  1. A liberal spread of PVA glue.  I've found it best to leave a 2-3mm (1/8th") gap around the edge rather than splashing the PVA right up to the edge.  Also, try not to get any glue on the actual figures.  Easier said than done I find and most of my chaps lose their feet in the mud.  Hehe...
  2. Apply a rough sand mix.  I've mixed my own pot of basin material that combines dried sandy earth (I picked mine up on a country walk) mixed with sand.  Dunking the base in the tub works pretty well.
  3. Apply a fine grain mix.  Again i've made my own from various railway model sand.
  4. Dab on some spots of PVA glue.
  5. Apply a mid green flock.
  6. Dab on some more spots of PVA glue.
  7. Apply some static grass.

It produces the effect you see and is something I've settled on as 'adequate'.  

So there you go.  The artillery is done.  Next up, some infantry I think.


  1. Very nice Steve! What size bases are you using for inf/cav/art?

  2. All bases are 30x30mm except the artillery which is 30x60mm.